Saturday, 24 March 2012

University Challenge - Grand Final

Manchester University v. Pembroke College, Cambridge

University Challenge Finals night is always something to look forward to. In the blue corner, Manchester University , last champions in 2009. They knocked out Selwyn College, Cambridge in the first round, Christ Church Oxford in the second, lost to UCL in their first quarter final match, then beat Newcastle, scoring a whopping 330 in the process, then Clare College Cambridge in what many people think of as the finest match of the Paxman era. In the semis they were just too good for Worcester, Oxford. Highly fancied to do well, Luke Kelly, Michael McKenna, Paul Joyce and skipper Tristan Burke had impressed throughout the whole series as a team who buzz them in from all angles. Everyone contributes important starters.

In the red – or maybe I should say light blue – corner we had Pembroke College Cambridge. They might never have won the whole series before, but they had won every match they played on the route to the final, disposing of, in order, St. Anne’s Oxford, Nottingham, Balliol Oxford, Clare, Cambridge, and in the semi-finals a good team from UCL – incidentally the only team to beat Manchester leading up to the final. Ed Bankes, Ben Pugh, Imogen Gold and captain Bibek Mukherjee formed a very useful unit, with Ben Pugh and Bibek Mukherjee weighing in heavily with starters , and Ed Bankes and Imogen Gold providing good support.

Tristan Burke took first blood for Manchester, knowing a series of novels which all contain the word History in their titles. The first set of bonuses were all connected with “The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie” and Manchester managed to answer two of them. The Manchester skipper continued to show good form with the buzzer for the second starter, knowing that the informal word for the Church of Scotland – the Kirk – the author of the Cherry Orchard and of a well known baby care book are all linked by Star Trek. The bonuses on quotations connected with the number 7 brought just another 5 points. Well, it was early days yet. Bibek Mukherjee stepped in to halt the customary Manchester blitz start, when he correctly recognized a quotation from William of Malmesbury referring to the year 1066. Their bonuses were on comparative religion. I suppose it doesn’t say a great deal for me that when they were asked which author wrote “The Case For God” I shouted Oolon Colloophid. One for the Hitchhikers Guide fans there. One correct answer took them to 15, 20 points behind Manchester. The picture starter showed a mathematical grid with the happy primes highlighted. Lovely. Nobody got that. Surprisingly nobody got ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny. Of course it does. Ben Pugh finally claimed the prime picture bonuses by recognizing a number of shorter words which can all be made from combinations of some of the letters in prolix. A good and quick shout that one. They missed permutable, Fibonacci and sexy primes. Curiously enough I would have had a bonus because I’ve heard of sexy primes, and would have therefore kept on giving that answer until it was right. Enough bragging. The Pembroke skipper twitched too early when asked for two capital cities on the same river, and lost five with Buda and Pest, when the full question made it clear that the capitals of the Republic of Congo and the Democratic Republic of Congo were required. Michael McKenna made a punt, but didn’t get Kinshasa, although he did get the harder one, Brazzaville. Luke Kelly managed a terrific answer for the next starter, recognising a personal ad typical of those put in the London Review of Books. Fair enough. A set of bonuses on Physics proved elusive, but even so Manchester managed one of them to lead by 50 to 20 at the ten minute mark.

Luke Kelly increased his team’s lead with the words iconic and ironic. Quotations bonuses followed, and I was saddened to see Manchester fail to identify my favourite poem , Keats’ Ode to Autumn. They took the other two, though. Ben Pugh took another flyer on the next and lost five, allowing Luke Kelly in with the term Steampunk for a genre of Science Fiction set in worlds where things are run on clockwork mechanisms – something like that anyway. Was this the decisive break for Manchester ? Bonuses followed on Toki Pona – see below – and Manchester managed one of these. They weren’t steaming ahead, but then it was never that type of match. The hardy perennial Planets Suite provided the music starter, and Michael McKenna was first in to identify Mercury – good shout there, I thought. Now, this was the final, and so for the bonuses they had to identify the planet, but also its largest moon. Only Mars and Phobos fell to them. Ben Pugh stopped the rot with the next starter. We’ve had the acronym BRIC before – was it last series or the previous one ? – and he knew that we were dealing with brazil – Russia – India – China. Bonuses on plant cytology provoked wry smiles between the team members, and two passes and an incorrect answer were the result. Ben Pugh took his second in a row with the Swedish chemist Berzelius. Psychological experiments brought them two bonuses, and narrowed the gap to 55 points. This time it was Luke Kelly who twitched on the buzzer, on a set of cryptic clues to Bali, which lost Manchester 5, bringing them back below 100, and allowed Ed Bankes to supply the correct answer. Bonuses on angles followed. I was really pleased with myself for remembering the angle of incidence. Pembroke didn’t manage to add to their store with this bonus. Luke Kelly took back those 5 points and more besides with the next starter on the term Civil Society. Manchester’s bonuses on volcanoes allowed them to add another 10 points. The gap now stood at 60 – not insurmountable by any stretch of the imagination, but it was looking like a large gap in this match considering that we had now reached the 20 minute mark.

Manchester’s one hand on the trophy seemed more secure when Paul Joyce took the second picture starter. Shown what looked to be an amateur landscape from 1914 he correctly answered that the artist was a Mr. A. Hitler. For the next 3 bonuses they were shown paintings by other world leaders. Two were taken. There was a lovely frivolous starter next, where two definitions of subordinate clauses were given, one being serious, and the other being ‘Santa’s little helpers ‘. Well, it made me laugh. Luke Kelly took that one, and even with definitions from Plato bringing them just another 5 points they now led by 150 to 55. Only 5 minutes remained. Ben Pugh took the next starter on the composer Gorecki. Good answer. Bonuses on melting points brought them 10 more points. Ben Pugh had obviously found his range now, as he leapt in early with the Olduvai Ravine for the next. Maybe it was a little too late, but at least Pembroke were well on course for three figures now, which is no less than they deserved. Florentine architecture bonuses helped , bringing them another 10 points. Ben Pugh again buzzed in first with the names of Major and Howe, he both served as Chancellor of the Exchequer in the 1980s, along with Nigel Lawson. Now Pembroke were on 105, and only 50 behind. Could it be . . . Well, opera bonuses brought them a full set of 15 points. If Pembroke took another full set on the next starter, the gap would be a mere 5 points. Paul Joyce made sure that this wouldn’t happen, by buzzing in with the term pueblo for the next starter. Bonuses on inventions brought Manchester another 10 points, and a modicum of security. Which was blown away when Bibek Mukherjee buzzed in early with Tyrrhenian for the next starter. Bonuses on digestive enzymes narrowed the gap to 30 once again. It had taken a while to warm up, but now we really had a contest on our hands. Ben Pugh lost five on the next starter, when neither team got the drink Horchata. Not my favourite, I have to admit, but when it’s any port in a storm. Still, I digress. Michael McKenna beat Ben Pugh in the race to the buzzer for the next question, knowing that VIM is an anagram for the roman numerals for 1004. Bonuses on the Isle of Skye,failed them, but they were interrupted by the gong anyway. The final score was 180 to 135 for Manchester. Many , many congratulations to them. That’s the 2nd time in 4 years that Manchester have become champions – an impressive record certainly. Well done to Pembroke too. They’ve been one of the most impressive sides this year, and I can but apologise for cursing them with the Clark tip.

Action shifted then. Normally the trophy is presented by a worthy personage straight after the final. On Monday, as if by magic we were transported to Clarence House, where both teams were presented to Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall. I know the reason why, since it’s the 50th Anniversary of the first series of UC in 1962. But I don’t know, wouldn’t it have been nice if Bamber had been there ? I’d like to think that they asked him at the very least. Camilla seems a nice enough old bird , albeit that what she had to say was a bit of an insomnia cure, but for my money this went on a little bit too much. It was nice that Pembroke received a trophy as well – a very nice touch that, and one I hope that will be retained in future series.

Jeremy Paxman Watch

JP, as always was on best behavior for the final. There was little to report other than on the Physics bonuses to Manchester, where he cut off Tristan Burke’s offer of two scientists with “No , forget it “. On the world leader paintings he agreed, “Yes. That nice Mr. Putin.” I did get the feel that he was biting his tongue a little when Camilla was indulging in a little harmless chitchat with Tristan Burke about how he was chosen as captain, and when he said “Can I ask you to present the trophy now, Your Royal Highness ? “ a not very small part of me was hoping against hope that he would roll out one of his famous “Oh, come ons !”Still, congratulations to him for another fine series. I say this every year, but it’s true, and so it’s worth saying again. It’s easy to underestimate the importance of the question master to any quiz show, and if we love UC, then JP deserves his share of the credit for this.

Interesting Fact Of The Week That I Didn’t Already Know

Toki Pona is an experimental language created in 2001 – it has no letter B


Jack said...

Well, this was certainly no classic, but it was certainly a much better final than last year's. And I'm pleased Pembroke did recover somewhat at the end; a third consecutive walkover in the final would have been very disappointing.

So very well done to Manchester for a worthy victory; and well done to Pembroke too for very good progress through the series. Ben Pugh, in particular, has shown excellent prowess throughout.

Mr Pugh scored six starters in Pembroke's cause, as the side made 12/27 bonuses with three penalties. After being rather quiet throughout the series, Luke Kelly has his best night with five starters; the side managed 15/32 bonuses.

Incidentally, this is the fifh consecutive series where the team on the same row won both the first match of the series and the final, if you see what I mean.

It's certainly been an interesting series, rather boring at times, yet really fun and exciting at others. The best match of the year would have to be Manchester vs Clare for me, though Homerton and Balliol's first round match, and Homerton's win over Durham in Round 2 also stand out.

So, well done to Paxman and all teams involved for another fine series of quizzing!

And well done to you too Dave for some very well written reviews throughout the series. Here's hoping the next series will be just as good, if not better!

Londinius said...

Thanks Jack - you are a gentleman , sir. I think you're right in as much as it has been an absorbing series certainly , even if it lacked maybe a stand out team such as we've had in the last few years. Thanks as always for your thoughtful comments , and the stats which you unfailingly provide for us.

Roll on next series !

AaronW said...

Re: Swedish chemist Vesalius

That's the answer i heard him say as well. But Vesalius was a famous ANATOMIST and PHYSICIAN, and a bit of googling reveals he was born in Brussels then Hapsburg Netherlands, to definitely UN-Swedish parents, and never set foot in Sweden never mind become nationalized as Swedish.

When the question was asked i thought of Carl Scheele as the answer because he discovered so many elements, none of which he took the credit for due to difficulties accessing the English language press, and the arrival of Humphrey Davey a few years later. Azimov called him "hard-luck Scheele". I wasn't sure if the elements Jezza listed were the correct ones but Carl Scheele was Swedish and did discover a list of elements.

Need to replay tape if anyone has it to check that question.

iaint said...

Could the chemist have been Berzelius? I can't remember the question, but he was a Swedish chemist.

Londinius said...

Hi Aaron W.

I just replayed the question on the iplayer with the subtitles, and apparently it's Berzelius. I'll correct the post now.



AaronW said...

Ah that's waonderful, thank you!

That rings a bell as the chap who standardized and simplified modern chemical notation, but used superscripts instead of subscripts as in H2O with the 2 elevated.

Just checked their elements lists: Scheele is credited, jointly with Priestley and Lavoisier, with the discovery of Oxygen, and with the discoveries of Molybdenum, Barium, Magnanese and Tungsten, though he never published any of them in time, while Berzelius is credited outright with Silicon, Thorium, Cerium and Selenium.

Apparently there was a proposal to name an element Berzelium, by the turn of the 20th century chemist Charles Baskerville, who claimed to have derived two new elements from Thorium: Carolinium and Berzelium. Both elements turned out to be identical with Thorium unfortunately, which is why that's the last that was ever heard of them.

I guess the practise of naming elements after people only began in the 20th century, it probably would have been considered ungentlemanly prior to that...not sure about that though.

ok, thanks for the write up. Glad we got it sorted.

Best wishes,